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Sheetfed/Web Litho Printing : Offsetting a Weak Economy

October 2009 By Mark Michelson
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MOST PRINTERS have curtailed their capital equipment expenditures in response to tough economic conditions and tight credit markets. Nonetheless, it's become increasingly obvious that maintaining a modern offset printing pressroom is a fundamental prerequisite to competing as a viable business.

Those seeking answers, and confirmation, to the tools that can help ensure future success trekked to PRINT 09 to observe the latest lithographic press and optimized workflow advancements available.

Sheetfed and web offset press exhibitors were all singing the same tune that the "holy grail" to achieving profitability in these tough times lies in a print shop's efficiency—quick makereadies, waste reduction, higher productivity with less people, as well as value-added capabilities to diversify and differentiate one's offerings. Not a new song, but nonetheless a chorus refrain that continues to resonate as more and more of the printing establishments saddled with outdated equipment and inefficient workflows fall by the wayside.

And, with few buyers of heavy iron around, vendors at the show were also singing the praises of their press maintenance/repair programs and consumables offerings.

Be Productive or Perish

The necessity of pressroom automation to survival in such a cut-throat industry was the take home message from a commercial printer panel assembled during Komori America's PRINT 09 press conference, as well as within the Komori booth itself.

The 12,600-square-foot stand featured three sheetfed presses: a six-color, 29x41˝ Lithrone SX 40 18,000-sph workhorse equipped with fully automatic plate changers; a six-unit, 24x29˝ LSX29 that can incorporate value-added, specialty processes; and an economical, five-color, 20x29˝ Spica 29 convertible perfector geared toward short runs.

The star of the Komori booth, however, was its new KHS-AI (artificial intelligence) sheetfed software that continually learns, adjusts and presets inking requirements, air settings and register control for current and subsequent jobs. The software's Smart Sequence and Smart Feedback features reduce downtime between jobs and speed on-the-fly density changes. KHS-AI can also be retrofitted onto some older-model Komori presses.

"We believe AI software can reduce startup waste up to 50 percent and, when paper is the most costly consumable in a printing plant, that's a significant number," pointed out Doug Schardt, sheetfed product manager.

The concept of a fully integrated print shop connected by end-to-end Prinect workflow solutions was literally the centerpiece of Heidelberg USA's 30,000-square-foot booth. A 10-color, 29˝ Speedmaster XL 75 perfector was equipped with the InPress in-line color and register measuring system, simultaneous plate changers and an aqueous coater. The press also featured Heidelberg's Prinect Press Center with both the Intellistart process-oriented navigation system and high-definition LCD Wallscreen.

Eliminates Click Charges

As an alternative to short-run, static, digital printing—while still retaining offset quality—a four-color Speedmaster SM 52 showcased Heidelberg's zoneless Anicolor inking technology. Anicolor reportedly speeds makereadies by up to 40 percent, increases press capacity up to 25 percent and reduces make- ready waste by up to 90 percent.

And, for small-format needs, a two-color, 13x18˝ Printmaster QM 46 demonstrated short-run printing, as well as longitudinal in-line perfing.

New Heidelberg Systemservice pricing was announced, based on variables like the size and technological level of the equipment. There are also more flexible standard working hours, lower Saturday rates and available zone travel charges that result in fixed travel costs.

And, to counteract the problem of counterfeit, often inferior, spare parts being sold as original Heidelberg parts, certified mechanical and electrical spare parts installed by a Heidelberg technician are now covered by warranties.

On the sales front, the big news out of the Heidelberg camp was the announcement that Bell Inc., a Sioux Falls, SD-based folding carton producer, would become the first company in North America to install a 64˝ Speedmaster XL 162 VLF press. The formerly all-web shop opted for a six-color with aqueous coater configuration, including the Prinect Press Center with Intellistart and integrated Wallscreen.

Although not a player in the VLF sheetfed press arena, xpedx used PRINT 09 as the North American debut of the 42˝ Ryobi 1050 series. Shown in a six-color with in-line aqueous coater configuration, the eight-up press is also ideal for package printing applications when equipped with an optional movable shell-type skeleton transfer drum that accommodates various substrates and thicknesses.

Fully automatic plate changers, UV curing units and a closed-circuit camera that continuously monitors print quality are available, as well.

Also shown for the first time in the United States was a high-speed version of the Ryobi 750 series, the 756G, which runs at speeds to 16,000 sph and incorporates a new feeder. The six-color press on display featured an LED-UV curing unit that replaces conventional UV lamps, cutting power consumption in excess of 70 percent.

KBA reported breaking its own world makeready record on the eight-color, 41˝ Rapida 106 perfector located in its booth. The demonstration entailed 17 unique four-over-four color jobs, each being completed with 500 saleable sheets, with a total of 136 plate changes—all in one hour.

Automation features making it possible included the DriveTronic shaftless feeder, SIS side-lay-free side guide, SPC simultaneous plate mounting and Qualitronic Pro color control system.

Alongside the Rapida 106, KBA showed its new, 23x29˝ five-color plus coater Rapida 75 half-size press for the first time in North America. Also in the booth was a Genius 52 UV waterless press—now available with a dedicated coating unit—producing jobs on a variety of plastic substrates.

The new Service Select program was also unveiled. KBA will now customize an individualized program, ranging from a one-time press relocation to regularly scheduled, ongoing support.

Selling Several Services

manroland Inc. reported similar interest in its PrintValue support programs available to sheetfed, commercial web and newspaper customers. The manufacturer dedicated space in its booth to highlight the service contract portfolios of printservices, printcom and printnet, as well as to promote its consumables offerings. In addition, a value-added printing tunnel was featured to emphasize various creative solutions that can help printers differentiate themselves.

Fifteen new customers signed contracts for the printcom program, according to manroland officials. And interest in the web printservices offering was high, with several large upgrade and rebuild projects closed during the show. ProServ Flex, manroland's latest PrintValue program, was also introduced, comprising more than 30 sheetfed press preventive maintenance components.

Live, early morning demonstrations of the 40˝ Roland 700 DirectDrive press—touted by manroland as the makeready world champion—were held daily at its suburban Chicago Print Technology Center.

Quick makereadies and job changeovers was a prevailing theme, as well, for Mitsubishi Lithographic Presses (MLP U.S.A.), which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Four posters were printed daily on a six-color, 41˝ Diamond V3000LX with SimulChanger fully automated, simultaneous plate changers and an in-line UV coating system. Capable of printing on paper, plastic and board stocks to 0.040˝ in thickness, the V3000LX is suited for high-end commercial work, labels, packaging and point-of-purchase materials.

Demonstrations also highlighted Mitsubishi's 2009 InterTech Technology Award-winning Diamond Color Navigator color adjustment system that enables faster and easier fine-tuning of colors.

On the web offset printing front, Goss International announced that the Church of Scientology purchased a six-unit Sunday 2000 press with Autoplate plate changers, Ecocool dryer and PCF-1 pinless combination folder for its formerly all-digital production facility in Los Angeles.

Goss' Automatic Transfer technology on the press will enable language changes for various collateral material and publications to be completed on-the-fly.

During the show, Goss and Ferag demonstrated STR-100 conveying technology together with a MultiLog bundler. In addition, interactive marketing applications of the GossRSVP media-to-mobile program were featured in a special theater. First introduced by Goss one year ago, the program allows mobile phone users to interact with media through text messaging and 2-D barcode technologies.

The Tensor Group highlighted its T-460 and T-500 semi-commercial and newspaper three-form-roller web offset presses, available with couple or unit shaftless drives.

For on-press color measurement and defect detection, Essex Products Group (EPG) launched KeyColor ColorInSpec. Featuring technology from Apollo Systems, the system reads an entire color bar on every impression, reducing make- ready time and monitoring defects according to customer-set tolerances. It integrates with EPG and other remote ink control systems to accomplish on-press color measurement corrections in real time.

AVT promoted the next- generation GMI ColorQuick/Clarios automated closed-loop, on-press color control system and Microcolor/Mercury remote touchscreen ink control for commercial printing applications.

Some other pressroom-related highlights around the show floor:

• Sakurai USA featured two presses in its booth: a five-color, 235⁄8x31˝ 575SDC offset press with coater that allows six-up format work, and a 41˝ Maestro MS-102AII cylinder screen press.

• Known more for its folding machines and related bindery equipment, PRINT 09 marked the debut of the BaumPrint 18 small-format press, being manufactured within Baumfolder's Sidney, OH, factory.

• Van Son Holland Ink added Vs1 to its Vs Series of inks. An oil-based ink enabling quick makereadies, Vs1 provides UV and aqueous coating capability, as well as stability—regardless of press size.

• INX International featured EcoTech process color inks incorporating more than 65 percent bio-derived content and three new ProCure UV Soy coatings.

• Shops printing jobs requiring exact brand spot colors now have access to Sun Chemical's SmartColour Global Shade Library database featuring more than 100,000 formulations of real ink colors. PI



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